I finished this trilogy last week, and I can heartily recommend this to anyone who likes stories about high tech dystopias. It is solid light sci-fi, aimed toward the young adult market (but like many YA books has an appeal to the young at heart too.)
Uglies: The year is roughly 2400. Society is split into three types of people. Children, the littlies, live at home with their parents, the middle aged form of the pretties. Adolescents are known as "uglies" because they have yet to undergo the mandatory operation to turn them into pretties, uniformly beautiful teenagers and adults that live in a high tech paradise. But there is a rumored fourth type . . . the specials, that control the society from the shadows. And what of the smokies, that live outside the confines of modern society? Tally Youngblood is about to uncover the hideous secret undermining the world she lives in.
The prose gets a little draggy at times, and I wanted to smack the main character around at several points for being a ******, but despite this the events and story are pretty gripping. After I finished this book, I went right back to the bookstore and bought the second one right away because I wanted to know what happened.
Pretties: Tally has undergone the operation and is now pretty. She is trying to join a clique called the Crims, a group of pretties that had been known troublemakers back in their ugly days. Every day is just another party day in New Pretty Town . . . but the Tally before the operation knew what she was getting into by reenterning pretty society. . . and how to get back out again.
I consider this the strongest of the trilogy. It has to take guts to take the blue pill, knowing that you've got a red pill stashed away that will strip away all the fuzzy edges and leave you with a pretty nasty reality. Tally's transformation in this book is the most believeable, as she gradually rediscovers what critical thinking is. Quite possibly the most amusing line is: "I'm Tally Youngblood. I may be pretty, but I have an ugly mind. And I'm stealing your hovecar."
Specials: The men-in-black of this society wear gray, and Tally has been sucked into their ranks by her former best friend Shay. Even knowing the dirty secrets of society no longer matters when you've been transformed into an elite agent of the government yourself. But she still has a mission to do, even if she has to lose everything to achieve it.
This is the first time we're giving a real indication of the location of the story (California, likely San Francisco, then later San Diego) and a hint of what brought about the drastic collapse of society today (oil eating bacteria ftw.) This volume wasn't quite as good as its predecessor although the action scenes were probably the most powerful of the three books.
All the reviews on Amazon seem to miss the big metaphor underlying the series, the genetically engineered orchids that have overtaken the planet. The rangers from Diego fight the orchids back with fire, and by the end of the series Tally has herself become a sort of ranger, fighting the GMO weed that will be the pretties with all their instincts returned to normal.
Treat this series as light lunchtime reading, and you'll enjoy it.